Favela on Blast -- Film Review

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AUSTIN -- A doc whose prospective audience ranges from "City of God" fans and world-music scholars to followers of such pop stars as M.I.A. and Beck, "Favela on Blast" blazes a trail through the slums of Rio de Janeiro to survey a music scene that has been hot there for years but remains unknown to most Americans.

The MCs and beat creators interviewed are proponents of what they call "funk," a heavily stylized flavor of rap that flourishes at enormous parties captured by co-directors Leandro HBL and Wesley Pentz. (Pentz, aka Diplo, is a music producer whose most recent success was co-writing the M.I.A. tune "Paper Planes.")

The party footage is exciting -- outrageously sexual and friendly to swaggering performances by singers young and, in the case of an eccentric-looking character named Biruleibe, grandfatherly. But equally fascinating is offstage footage in which the genre's stars hang out in slums some no longer call home but to which all seem to remain loyal, where flying a kite can stand in for more expensive diversions and hassles from police are a fact of life.

The doc zips from subject to subject energetically, slowing only to catch an off-the-cuff musical performance. Newbies might wish for a narrator or more onscreen text to put what they're seeing in context, but even viewers who get a bit lost will enjoy the ride.
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